Becoming A Digital Leader In Your Industry

Being a digital leader is about the actions you take and the tools you implement in your business.

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By Hafiz Muhammad Ali


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A digital leader is someone who sets a digital structure, selects the right digital tools, and inspires employees in an organization to use these tools to serve customers better.

Most times, digital leaders are usually people in the management positions of a company. These leaders have the experience and skills to take the company forward with digital transformation. Traits such as creativity, being a team builder and authority, good communication, and so on, are the hallmarks of a good digital leader. These traits help the digital leader to carry out the vision of the company. However, there are additional traits one needs to master.

Having a vision
Many times, new technologies fail in businesses. This is not necessarily because the technology is poor but because employees don't know why they're using these tools. Therefore, as a digital leader, you need to use existing tools and resources available to you properly. For examle, in 2006, Burberry's then CEO, Angela Ahrendts, and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, had a single vision: to make Burberry the first fully digital luxury company. This was the vision that led to a microsite like the Art of Trench and other social media initiatives that the company embarked on. Today, it's one of the "loved' digital companies in the luxury industry.

Embracing strong interpersonal skills
After stating your vision clearly, you need strong interpersonal skills to carry other employees along. To get the best out of the digital tools available, employees need to be shown how to take the right actions with them. Marc Russel Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, has set a popular "Ohana" value, where every employee is seen as an equal part of the Salesforce family. He sets goals that inspire employees to work towards achieving them. With good interpersonal skills, employees will develop trust in you, and they can share their ideas and issues with the innovations you're trying to implement.

Related: How To Be A Thought Leader In Your Industry

Asking the right questions
The first step to getting great answers is asking great questions. What is your business' biggest need? Where is your business inefficient? How can your business become faster, regarding product/service delivery and responding to customers? How do employees spend their time while at work? While you're asking these questions, you should aim to improve an important part of your business. If you can identify parts to improve in your business, then it becomes easier to identify the right tools and convince employees to use them. In some cases, a digital leader will have to ask employees these questions in order to get an accurate assessment of the business. Stephenie Landry, Amazon's Vice President who launched Prime Now in 2014, said that their business is to ask and answer two questions: "Do you have what I want, and can you get it to me when I need it?" Asking these questions help them to channel their digital efforts in the right direction.

Focusing on innovating technology
The pace of innovation, especially in the digital world, is fast with new technologies being designed and implemented daily. One of the pressing goals of using digital innovation is to identify and solve business problems, increase customer satisfaction, and grow revenue. Recent innovating technologies, such as 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), high-speed travels, and robotics, help big brands to get more work done in less time. For example, Amazon deploys over 45,000 industrial AI-powered robots throughout its fulfillment centers. These robots are advanced as they can maneuver across the warehouse floor with little or no human interaction.

Studying competitors
If you want to implement a piece of technology in your business today, there is a high probability you're not the first company to use it unless you have developed the technology by yourself. There are many things to learn from your competitors. When you study your competitors, you want to improve on the right things they are doing and avoid the bad steps they are taking.

Learning fast
The digital space is a rapidly changing space. Digital tools become outdated quickly as new and better tools are released. To maintain your position as a digital leader, you must be able to learn fast. You must follow the trends of new digital tools and processes that improve your employees' productivity and service to customers. Companies like Blackberry lost their leadership position in the smartphone business because they didn't learn fast enough to adapt to customers' needs. Google started as a search company, but over the years, it created its own web browser, bought and developed a smartphone operating system, Android, and other projects. Recently, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai said the company is moving from "mobile first" to "artificial intelligence (AI) first." This allows Google to serve better search results with the use of RankBrain and to improve voice search and power devices like Google Home Smart Speaker.

Putting customer's satisfaction as the main priority
With the improvement in technology, customers are spoilt with so many options and they know that. Poor service to a single customer could lead to the loss of many other customers as customers can spread bad news about your business easily online. To be a digital leader, customer satisfaction must be a factor behind any digital tool you decide to put in place. When you decide to implement a digital culture at your workplace, the ultimate aim should be to serve customers better. For Zappos' CEO, Tony Hsieh, the major duty of the company is to provide the best customer service possible. In fact, he allows new employees to leave after two months if they feel Zappos is the wrong place for them. This is a vision that is clear to every employee. Whether they attend to customers through social media, or live chat, or on the telephone, they know what they need to achieve with these tools.

Being a digital leader is about the actions you take and the tools you implement in your business. Also, being a digital leader means you inspire other employees in your organization to follow your lead.

Related: How To Be An Ethical Leader

Hafiz Muhammad Ali

Entrepreneur, Author, PhD in Entrepreneurship

Hafiz Muhammad Ali is an entrepreneur, founder of Omnicore, author of Digital Passport. With a PhD in entrepreneurship, his is a firm believer in lifelong learning. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge, experience and opinion on digital marketing, leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation. Ali invests in books and people.

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